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Smartphone app provides OWI defense

New technologies have been criticized for causing distracted driving. However, a new smartphone application played a role in reversing an Iowa drunk driving conviction recently because a suspect was not permitted to receive an in-person consultation.

A West Des Moines law firm developed the app to provide information on the rights that drivers have during traffic stops and other police dealings. The application provides tips on being polite and remaining silent. It also allows the user to contact a lawyer in their area and to record their dealings with police.

Police pulled over the defendant for driving without his headlights on and subsequently arrested him after noticing his bloodshot eyes and smelling alcohol at 1:00 am in October 2014. The alleged OWI suspect used the app's "Contact lawyer" function to reach an on-call lawyer when he was stopped and arrested.

After receiving legal advice through the phone application, the suspect exercised the right granted under Iowa law to request an in-person consultation with an attorney or family member. He told the arresting officer that a person was arriving. The officer responded that he could not wait because of other service calls and patrol duties. He told the suspect he had to decide whether he would submit to a breathalyzer.

The test results were double Iowa's legal limit. A trial court upheld the drunk driving charges and ruled that the defendant was guilty.

The Iowa Court of Appeals overturned this conviction last month. It suppressed the breath test results because the defendant invoked his right for an-person consultation within the two-hour window for administering the test. The police violated his rights by not waiting for the one hour remaining for administering the test.

Drunk driving suspects are accorded numerous rights during stops and arrests. Field sobriety tests and other testing must meet certain requirements. Prompt legal representation can help assure that a defendant's rights are protected and may combat a OWI conviction. It's important to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible after one is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Source: ABC News, "App helps Iowa man get drunken driving conviction tossed," Ryan J. Foley, May 25, 2016

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